DISCOURSE MARKERS: SEMANTIC RESOURCE FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF CONVERSATION

DEBORAH SCHIFFRIN, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

Discourse markers are utterance-initial elements which bracket units of spoken talk. Although they have multiple uses in everyday conversation which become apparent only through an analysis of the semantic and pragmatic characteristics of surrounding discourse, markers are also linguistic elements with syntactic and semantic properties of their own. The only marker with no sentential parallel is well; others are conjunctions (and, but, so), adverbs (now, like), and clauses (I mean, y'know).^ The problem examined in this dissertation concerns the connection between the linguistic characteristics of markers and their use in conversation. More specifically, is referential meaning and sentential structure a resource for the use of linguistic elements in semantic and pragmatic realms of conversational discourse? Data used to examine this question are sociolinguistic interviews with lower-middle class Jews in Philadelphia.^ The analysis combines methods of quantitative analysis developed in variation studies with qualitative approaches to the study of social interaction and conversation. The first section (Chapters 3-7) shows how markers help to build discourse structure, organize textual information, and construct conversation. The second section (Chapters 8, 9) focuses more narrowly on markers in narrative and argument. The restriction to markers in these two specific discourse genres shows their role first, in the sequential organization of such genres, and second, as part of more comprehensive verbal strategies through which expressive meanings and social actions are negotiated.^ In conclusion (Chapter 10), the study shows that markers function on referential, social, and expressive levels of discourse, demonstrating (1) discourse cohesion results from the interplay among these three levels of meaning, (2) linguistic variation at the discourse level needs to incorporate semantic and pragmatic equivalences and differences as well as referential equivalences and differences.^

Subject Area

Language, Linguistics

Recommended Citation

SCHIFFRIN, DEBORAH, "DISCOURSE MARKERS: SEMANTIC RESOURCE FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF CONVERSATION" (1982). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI8307360.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI8307360

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